Helena’s Cancer Diaries

Last fall, Helena was diagnosed with breast cancer. Currently she is undergoing chemo treatments through the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic. As editor of the local community weekly newspaper, the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald, she has had to take a medical leave of absence from her job. Early on, however, she and John decided to be open about what Helena was facing. As a result, she wrote the following editorial which was published the day before her mastectomy November 24, 2015.

I have breast cancer. Today is my last day at the Press-Herald, at least for 2015 as after tomorrow I will be at home recovering from a mastectomy. What will happen in the New Year is unknown as of yet, depending on the results of lymph node testing after the surgery. Thank you to all our readers and advertisers for your support during my reign at the helm of the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald. It is deeply appreciated and I hope to be back!

For my editorial today, I thought I would share some facts and thoughts from “my cancer diary.”

Whether it was an intuitive experience or God speaking to me, at a personal development event in late July, the thought that I needed physical healing and that I had bad health to get rid of popped into my head. How odd, I thought – I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me but … what if there is …

I’ve always tended to avoid doctors unless it’s obvious one is needed. At times, I’ve gone years between physicals but, as it happened, at the urging of He-who-thinks-he’s-boss, I already had an appointment booked. I even kept the appointment when the opportunity arose to postpone it.

For the first time in years, I took that mammogram form and booked an appointment promptly. While I still half expected to be told all was well – after all neither I nor the doctor at my physical had found anything to be concerned about – I was not surprised to be asked to return to the mammogram room for an additional “photo shoot.” And then, after that, for ultrasound imaging.

The radiologist met with me. There was a very, very small lump and also some calcifications elsewhere in the same breast. There were three reasons for concern, he explained. One, the lump had an irregular edge which was not a good sign. Two, there were calcifications in the same breast. Three, my family history – my mother died of metastasized breast cancer in 1984, five days before her 60th birthday.

The next step was booking a needle biopsy at the Irene and Leslie Dubé Women’s Health Centre at City Hospital. Meeting the doctor in charge of my care immediately prior to what ended up being a prolonged three biopsies, he also said there was reason for concern. Later I overheard him telling someone else that 90 per cent of lumps in the breast are benign. He did not say that to me.

Time for another wait as the tissue samples from the biopsies were analysed. The return appointment to discuss results was 12 days later. He-who-thinks-he’s boss and I decided to tell no one, including our children, until we knew something for sure. With all the hints the tests would be positive for cancer, it was a difficult wait; a friend told me afterwards she thought something didn’t seem right, that I wasn’t myself.

We went early to Saskatoon so we could go out for lunch before the appointment. As I felt my life was probably about to change forever, I wanted the lunch to be something special. My first choice of restaurant was gone, the building torn down. The second not open. We went to a third which sounded interesting but which ended up having, to me, a disappointing “ordinary” menu.

I was unable to explain to He-who-thinks-he’s boss why I was sad. If I tried to say the words, “I just wanted to have a really nice lunch before my life changes,” I simply started crying. I had to tell him I couldn’t talk about it but I was okay.

You think you are strong and handling everything so well but little things trip you up …

Newspaper readers were told to “Please see next week’s paper for part II of Helena’s Cancer Diary.” You may click here if you are so inclined.)